ANTICIPATION & PURPOSE
A video that was part of ‘Small Thing Big Idea’, a TED original series, debates how progress bars make waiting more exciting.
According to a survey mentioned in this video, people care more about the fact that there is a progress bar, rather than the actual number on it. If there is a percentage, people get some fulfilment from the sense of achievement and hope there is an end goal in sight.
Watching a webpage load, food until it is cooked, noticing a plant grow, watching our children stand, talk, walk, run, graduate, all of these give us a feeling of purpose over different periods of time. Some people even use tally charts to count up or down days, like prisoners in cells who scratch the days spent in jail and hence towards the end of their potential sentence.
So, all in all, progress bars could be literal, or metaphorical.
The opposite of the previous concept is when a progress bar is working backwards.
Sometimes I feel quite anxious when I see that the battery power on my ancient iPhone 6 is under two per cent, especially if I am not home or somewhere close to a charging point, although I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of telecom companies or other electronics manufacturers. Or when my car is low on fuel and it's on its last bar, the least clever thing to do would be to go for a long drive without fuelling up.
This reverse progress bar is therefore, more of a preparation for when to start thinking about a situation and acting and finding a source of power, fuel, energy etc. It teaches us how to pace ourselves. So, next time your mobile phone is on ten percent battery and you have a two-hour journey home, you may choose not to listen to music or watch a video and switch it off for some time. Unfortunately, for running out of fuel, there isn't much of a practical solution apart from fuelling up or suffering the potential consequences.
The battery charged on your phone, the amount of petrol in your car, the amount of milk left in the fridge, the number of pages left in your notebook... these and more status checks on various parts of our lives are just early warning signs that prepare us for the consequences of running out.
Similarly, if we find ourselves running slightly low on energy ourselves, although we don’t have a clear electronic display of our remaining power, we should try to detect and remember the triggers for having low energy. These can act as our health progress or status bar, which we can consciously act on with remedial action, such as finding energy sources or reduce the level of physical activity or exertion.
Equally, as we grow older, it's recommended that we get regular health checks for things like our Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Sugar levels and so on. These are so that we keep an eye on our body's progress bars, so we can maintain our health and if we act appropriately, watch the progress of any improvements.
We can't manage projects efficiently in life or at work without having a project status report. This could qualify as a detailed progress bar, or perhaps a collection or project bars, which can create accountability within the project team, with given deadlines and dependencies.
So if Person A hasn't completed the task by Day 5, Person B can't start their job, which will have an effect on the whole project, with a possible domino effect. So, no pressure on Person A...
These visual representations of situations can also come in handy for businesses and their customers, for example.
When you return something that you purchased online and hear nothing from the seller, you may feel some uncertainty and annoyance. Yet, if you receive an email status update, that they have received the returned item or are supplied with a 'link to track' the return or delivery, it makes you look at the seller as a professional and you're likely to do business with them again. Your mind is put at rest, that something is happening and the end result that you want i.e. getting your money back, is close to happening.
If people or companies didn't communicate to others, this could result in unnecessary frustration and possible complaints.
We all secretly love the occasional pat on the back for a job completed, and on a less human sense, those big green ticks we get when we complete an online form correctly or completely.
Humans fuel their motivation levels on validation, in different ways. Whether it involves producing a checklist or a To-do list and ticking every job that has been completed, or when you receive a certificate.
When we receive a certificate or prize for completing something, it gives us a sense of accomplishment, at the end of an actual or virtual progress bar that you were working through. For example, for a course on flying a plane, getting to the top of a mountain, a qualification for your career, a marriage certificate for giving your relationship a new(ish) name... most of these are feel-good moments and well deserved.
Well done, you.
An article called the Tail End, really made me think about the amount of time doing things I love or spending time with those who I love. The author compares how much of their own life has passed and is left, assuming a generous 90-Year Human life.
The purpose of this article wasn't to scare us, I'm sure, but to remind us to periodically check how we are progressing through life and how much of our time we are planning to give different aspects of our lives, including to those who we love dearly.
How are we prioritising our priorities, within an approximate, but finite time frame of just one life time?
These progress bars are only ways of managing our psychology and behaviour, to have a clearer idea of situations, in order for us to make better informed decisions, to the best of our abilities.
How much we use them, how we use them and when, all depends on how we, as individuals benefit from them over time.